As a dietitian I’m often asked which is better, fresh, canned, or frozen vegetables? My response is they all have benefits and can all fit into a healthy eating plan.
You want to buy fresh vegetables when they are in season. They cost less and are likely to be at their peak flavor. However, when not in season, frozen or canned versions are often a smarter buy. For example, buy fresh sweet corn in the summer but frozen or canned corn during other months.
Commercially frozen vegetables are frozen within hours of picking. Therefore, their flavor is retained and nutrient loss is reduced. Buy plain frozen vegetables instead of those with special sauces or seasonings, which can add calories, fat and sodium, as well as cost.
Canned vegetables tend to be the least expensive. And if you don’t end up using them, they won’t go bad quickly. When buying canned vegetables, buy those that have reduced or no sodium. Or drain and rinse regular canned vegetables to reduce the sodium.
When deciding whether to buy fresh, canned or frozen vegetables, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Which kind of vegetable is most appropriate for your needs? If you are making a soup or stew, canned tomatoes might make more sense than fresh.
- How much waste is there? If you are buying fresh carrots or broccoli, consider that you’ll pay for the entire weight, but you’ll throw away the stems/peels. You’ll need to have a plan to eat fresh vegetables before they spoil while frozen and canned vegetables can be stored for longer periods of time.
- How much time will it save overall? Don’t just consider the cooking time but preparation and clean up as well. If your schedule for the week is busy, you might decide to use frozen or canned vegetables if they will save you time.